General Teaching Methods

This week, I concluded two of my summer quarter classes – General Teaching Methods and Classroom Management. Both courses have been instrumental to me and both will heavily influence my upcoming school year.

In General Methods, we concluded by writing a reflective paper on Robert Marzano’s text Classroom Instruction That Works. This assignment really helped to solidify in my mind the research, techniques, and examples from Marzano’s book. It gave me an opportunity to consider how I’ll apply the principles in my class this year. As I wrote, I was thinking of new lesson ideas and ways to add to what I already do in class.  One of the things I’ll be doing a lot more of this year is looking for ways to personalize my students’ learning, from the objectives of the lesson to the application and reflection.  I’ll be using questions to focus students’ attention and heighten their interest and anticipation.  Another thing I will improve this year is the quality of feedback I give them. Instead of  weightless comments like “good job”, I will give them focused and specific comments on ways they met objectives and ways they can continue improving.

The classroom management class has given me a fresh look at the way I manage my classroom. As a result of writing my management plan for the final class paper, I will be taking a different approach to rules and procedures this year. In my last four years of teaching, I have never really taught and practiced the procedures of my classroom. The result has been confusion, countless repeated explanations, and even frustration at time. To prepare for this year, I’ve written out a list of almost thirty procedures that I will teach my students at the onset of the year. I will give them a worksheet with each procedure, instructing them to write the procedure out in their own words and personalize it as they need to. I will discuss the importance of each procedure with them and invite their feedback. I will practice each procedure with them and periodically review procedures. I have a feeling this will greatly reduce the number of procedural infractions my students may commit throughout the year. Just by being clear about my class procedures, I will greatly enhance my overall classroom management.

This summer has been an amazing time of learning and discovery for me. The challenge now will be to utilize my learning as I work to positively impact my students’ learning this year at Cedar Park Christian School.

The first day of school is coming up. I’m excited to begin, and I anticipate reporting a number of successes on this blog throughout the coming months! I also look forward to sharing evidence of student learning!


Every new learning experience for our students should start with questions. What do you already know about this topic? Why is this topic relevant to me? What is important about this topic? What will I learn from this lesson? Questions are like putting a key in the ignition to turn the engine on. They automatically get us thinking about a particular subject and they cause us to begin to recall what we already know about the subject. This is a great place to start learning new information.

In Ch. 10 of Classroom Instruction That Works, Marzano explains that cues and questions are similar techniques. Cues are hints about what students are about to experience. Questions are designed to have students think about possibilities and connections ahead of new learning. Both methods activate prior knowledge and both happen before a lesson even begins!

I find in my first four years of teaching that I used questions naturally as a way to activate prior knowledge and introduce new information. However, I’m going to make the point of using cues and questions even more this year.

It is important for teachers to ask questions and cue students in preparation for learning new material. Harnessing what students already know about a topic can make the job of teaching new material easier. Students will be more interested and more engaged. They won’t feel intruded upon – they will simply add the new material to their previously learned material to strengthen their understanding of a topic.

Topic: Cooperative Learning. What are the benefits of working in groups to accomplish learning tasks? Why is cooperative learning important?

Cooperative learning is an essential tool in the classroom and, as Marzano confirms with the research, is one of the most popular and effective instructional strategies. The benefits of cooperative learning are numerous. First, it promotes interdependence – the sink or swim mentality. No one wants to be responsible for causing the group not to reach the specified goals, so everyone participates. The strategy also encourages face to face promotive interaction. In helping each other understand and learn the material at hand, there are numerous chances to applaud success and individual efforts. Thirdly, there is a high level of accountability with cooperative learning. Each member is held to a certain degree of corporately agreed-upon participation. Next, the interpersonal skills reinforced in group learning include improvement in communication, trust, leadership, decision-making, listening skills, and conflict resolution. Finally, cooperative learning allows for group processing – reflecting on the material with others and solidifying learning through sharing and listening to viewpoints and feedback.

In our General Methods class, we have actually learned the value of cooperative learning by practicing it in our own learning! Chad, our instructor, would ask us questions and have us put ourselves into groups of 3 or 4, different members each time, to discuss the topics. It allowed us to get to know one another on a deeper level. It allowed us to share our viewpoints and get feedback on them. It also allowed us to actively listen to other people. To ensure equal opportunity and as an assessment tool, Chad provided one member of each group with a sheet to mark the member names and number of comments and responses. He called these activities Scored Discussions. He explained the grading rubric for them, including base points, points added, and points removed. As a result, each member was sure to participate actively and often. I thought this was a great exercise and I will certainly use it in my classes this year.

I want to build my classes on a foundation of respect. My class rules reflect this: Respect God, Others, Self, Property. Cooperative learning fosters respect for self and respect for others. I’m excited to harness the power of this instructional strategy in my classroom this year!

This past week has been online-only work. At first, it was difficult to keep up with the reading and posting, but I think I’ve got a handle on it now! I continue to enjoy posting comments on my classmates’ responses. Even though we are not sharing a classroom together right now, it is still enjoyable to see the different viewpoints and contribute mine.

In General Methods, we continue to study the nine research-proven instructional strategies set out in Marzano’s text. This week, I’ve learned more about providing recognition to students, teaching students how to identify similarities and differences, how to summarize and note-take effectively, and the importance of homework and practice to learning. It is very useful to see which strategies have worked based on educational research. A lot of time and effort has been put into these studies and the results are laid out in easy-to-read graphs and charts in the Marzano text.

In Classroom Management, we are looking at the Four Key Principles of Love and Logic. We’ve done the first two this week – The Enhancement of Self-Concept and Shared Control. These ideas are so important! I have decided I will walk into my classroom on the first day of school with the goal of assuring my students that I will accept them unconditionally and respect them. I will let them know that I would like the same from them. I will deal with behavior issues as they come along, calmly and firmly, putting the burden of choice in their hands.  If they end up not succeeding in my class, it will be because they willfully chose not to.  In the end, nothing they could do or say would change the fact that I love them as children of God.

I am excited to start my new school year with some of the principles and strategies I’ve studied firmly in mind to help me succeed!

General Methods Blog#1

Topic:  Recognizing Outstanding Work.  How can teachers recognize the outstanding work their students do?

One of the most satisfying things for a teacher is the chance to see a student excel. We look for it every day and we are delighted when we see it. After all, it means we are doing something right! It also means the student(s) are learning. Chapter 4 of the Marzano text deals with recognition and offers numerous insights into how it might be done effectively.

So how can we recognize the outstanding work of students? I think it starts by making it personal. Marzano says that “when recognizing the accomplishment of a performance standard…it is best to make this recognition as personal to the students as possible.” Since every student is unique as a learner, each one will have different personal achievement goals. If they get the chance to share these with the teacher, they will take more ownership over them. The intrinsic motivation will be them challenging themselves to reach them. The extrinsic motivation comes from us as teachers in the form of abstract and concrete recognition.

I think the best example of abstract recognition is verbal ‘praise’, where we help students realize the progress they have made. We don’t want to overdo this, as this could mean students get unnecessarily praised for easy tasks, resulting in a lowered perception of ability. But one of the most important jobs of a teacher is to come alongside students and encourage them in their goals. Concrete recognition can be useful to recognize students who have achieved specific performance goals. That way, the intrinsic motivation to get to the goal remains intact, while the extrinsic motivation can help a student realize achievement of the goal.

In my classroom, I have 5-point bonus coupons. I give them out for a variety of reasons, including participation in extra-curricular class-related events, for answering special trivia questions, and for winning review games before quizzes and tests. I admit that the distribution is a bit random, and as such, may be considered by Marzano to be ineffective. It also rewards mere participation at times, which may also suggest ineffectiveness. I like the idea of the bonus coupons. Perhaps this year, I can think of ways to make the program more connected to personal achievement, effort, and accomplishment.

In summary, I think it is essential that teachers reinforce effort and provide recognition to students. In order to do this effectively, it needs to be informed by the student’s personal achievement goals. The more we can make it personal as we work to bring out the best in each student, the more we will build each student’s intrinsic motivation for learning. In other words, forget the candy – I want to do well on this because I understand its value to me and I believe with effort I can do it!

My third week in the ARC program has proved to be enjoyable and enlightening. In General Methods, we continued to employ cooperative learning techniques to discuss various topics. For example, we got in groups to discuss the best order of the four areas of teacher expertise. Our group arranged them this way: 1. Human Relations  2. Management Skills  3. Instructional Strategies   4. Content Area. Our thinking was thus: In order to effectively teach people something, you first have to build relationship with them. Then, you have to have the skills to manage a large group of them. Thirdly, you have to know HOW to teach your content, and finally, you have to know your content. Later in the week, we discussed the challenges of teaching in the Information Age. For what are we preparing students? In my notebook, I put it this way: we should equip students to be flexible, critical thinkers and problem solvers, enabling them to tackle the yet unforseen challenges of the next generation. Finally, we also discussed in methods class this week how to handle controversial topics in the classroom. I was inspired by the video we watched. Some of the best classroom learning and experience can occur when we tackle the tough issues full on, allowing each student to hear all sides, formulate an opinion, support that opinion, and discuss it with studentwho have like-minded and opposing viewpoints.

In Classroom Management, I am enjoying the reading of Teaching with Love and Logic. The principle of consequences with empathy I think is important. If students get caught up in our anger and frustration, they’ll likely miss the importance of the consequence or action and therefore miss a teachable moment. We also discussed how to begin our classroom management plan with our philosophy of classroom management.  Our philosophy will include our guiding principles and core beliefs. All of our actions should be aligned with this philosophy. So that’s something I need to consider.

The issue of whether taking loudly in class is effective was also discussed. In the end, I realized that it is not. If I raise my voice level to meet theirs, they haven’t done any work to hear me.  I must have them do the active work of tuning in in order for it to be effective and to work consistently.

Finally, we discussed mandatory reporting in the State of Washington. If I notice something out of order or abnormal, it is safer to report it than to risk the questions that will be raised later if I don’t.

This week, I started my other two summer classes, General Teaching Methods and Classroom Management. I was eager to begin learning more in these areas because I know it will benefit me greatly this coming school year.

In the Methods class, Chad immediately began harnessing the power of cooperative learning in class. Every day, we got together in different groups of 3 or 4 to discuss various topics and instructional methods. Using a method called Scored Discussions, he taught us how to use group discussions as a graded assignment, using an assessment sheet to ensure that each member of the group listened, participated, and stayed on track. We got a chance to listen to other’s opinions, express ours, and come to consensus on important topics. I am enjoying the class very much.

In the Management class, Daniel has brought to our attention numerous issues that come up regarding classroom management and our effectiveness as teachers. In preparing us to create our own classroom management plan, he is revealing to us how important it is for us as teachers to be aware of our students, of our colleagues and administrators, and of our communities. Of particular interest to me so far has been the video we were shown of educational consultant Harry Wong and his no-nonsense approach to management. I realized that procedures are paramount in my classroom, and that I need to take the time necessary to teach, rehearse, and maintain procedures from Day One to Day One-Eighty! It also got me thinking about the signal I will use to get my students’ attention. In years past, I have used verbal cues like “Alright, listen up!” or “Let me have your attention.” Depending on the class, these have worked fairly well. However, I’d like to explore other ideas and other cues that are non-verbal and have little chance of promoting frustration or even voice weariness in me.